The protests that have swept the West Bank, Gaza Strip and large parts of the Arab and Islamic world in the aftermath of US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital show that most Arabs and Muslims still have not come to terms with Israel's right to exist.
The protests also provide further evidence that many Arabs and Muslims, including, of course, the Palestinians, continue to view the US as an enemy and "big Satan" because of its support for Israel. Trump's announcement is just another excuse for Arabs and Muslims to vent their long-standing hatred for Israel and the US.
For the Palestinians, Trump's announcement simply provided the latest opportunity to step up their violent and rhetorical attacks and threats against Israel. As such, there is nothing new about the Palestinian protests that erupted after Trump's announcement.
Palestinian terrorism against Israel is one of the oldest stories in the book. The many shapes it takes, from rock-throwing to stabbings to shootings to suicide bombings and rockets, began long before Trump's announcement and will continue long after it. Hardly a day passes without an incident of violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
However, because most of the violent attacks do not injure or kill Israelis, they are ignored by the media. Clashes between stone-throwing Palestinians and Israeli soldiers are as old as the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and have even become part of the norm. Shootings and car-ramming attacks? Well, they have been taking place almost every week for the past few decades.
A Palestinian young man prepares to throw a firebomb at Israeli soldiers near Ramallah, December 11, 2017. (Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)
It is disingenuous, then, to claim that Trump's announcement triggered the latest spate of Palestinian violence. At most, the announcement catalyzed the Palestinians to amplify their ongoing terror attacks against Israel. The announcement has also contributed to exposing the Palestinians' long-standing vicious hatred of the US, regardless of who is sitting in the White House -- a Republican or Democratic president.
The Palestinians are on record as failing to distinguish meaningfully between Republicans and Democrats, because the US is, in any event, supposedly "controlled by the Zionist lobby." Consider what political analyst Qais Qadri said during the last US presidential race:
"There is no difference between the Republicans and Democrats with regards to their hostility towards the Palestinian cause. We are weaker than the Jewish lobby to cause any changes in American policy."
Thus, the Palestinian hostility towards the US has nothing to do with Trump himself, but rather concerns general American policies, especially US support for Israel. True, many of the Palestinians who took to the streets in the past week did burn effigies of Trump, but they also torched US flags and chanted slogans accusing the US as being an enemy of the Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims.
This uproar is more about hating the US and Americans than protesting a purported change in the status of Jerusalem. Otherwise, why would a Palestinian shop owner hang a sign at the entrance to his business that reads: "Dogs and Americans Not Allowed to Enter"?
Or why would Palestinians launch a campaign to demand the closure of all American institutions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in helping the Palestinians build a viable future Palestinian state? That is just another example of how the Palestinians are shooting themselves in the foot to satisfy their craving to demonize the US. It is worth noting that the campaign against US institutions also states that the Palestinians' real goal is to "liberate Palestine, from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river." In other words, this means that the true goal of the Palestinians is to destroy Israel.
This brings us to the issue of anti-Israel incitement, which has long been an integral part of the Palestinian campaign to delegitimize and demonize Israel and Jews. This campaign, especially through the Palestinian media, began long before Trump's announcement; it gained momentum after that. It is hardly the case that Palestinians were teaching their children to accept Israel's right to exist and live with it in peace before Trump's announcement. On the contrary: for many years now, the Palestinians have been doing their utmost to indoctrinate their children and deny any Jewish attachment or history to the land.
This incitement reached its peak last week, when Palestinian Authority (PA) President delivered a speech before the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Turkey. Abbas claimed that the Jewish history of Jerusalem is false and declared that there will be "no peace in the region and in the world" without a Palestinian state and Jerusalem as its capital. Even the left-wing lobbying Jewish group, J Street, condemned Abbas's "divisive and inflammatory rhetoric."
Yet, why do Abbas's remarks come as a surprise? He is simply reiterating the official, long-standing policy of the Palestinian Authority. Where has the West been when Palestinian leaders have declared outright, decade after decade, that Israel has no right to exist and Jewish history is nothing more than lies?
This week, we received yet another reminder of how Palestinians deny Jewish history. The PA's Ministry of Information released a statement in which it dismissed the existence of the Western Wall, Judaism's most sacred site. Referring to the Western Wall by its Islamic name, the ministry said: "Al-Buraq was, still is and shall be a Palestinian, Arab and Islamic site."
This Palestinian denial of Jewish history did not start after Trump's announcement. In fact, it has nothing to do with the announcement and has always been the public position of the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and all Palestinian groups and leaders.
Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims are furious not because of any purported change in the status of Jerusalem. They know full well that Trump's announcement will not change anything on the ground and is mostly symbolic. They are not angry because the US embassy is about to move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. They are well aware that such a move is unlikely to happen any time in the near future. Besides, why would the PA, which claims it wants East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, oppose moving the US embassy to West Jerusalem?
The answer is simple. It is because the Palestinians and Arabs view all of Jerusalem as an "occupied" city, just as they view all of Israel as an "occupying" power. The protesters on the streets of Arab capitals and in the West Bank and Gaza Strip appear to be more honest than their leaders when they chant: "Palestine is 100% Arab and both parts of Jerusalem, east and west, will be the eternal capital of Palestine!"
Let us get things straight, finally. The Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims cannot stomach the fact that Israel exists, period. Their real problem is not with Trump's recognition of the reality -- that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Rather, they have a problem with Israel's very existence. They see no difference between East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem. For them, the entire city is "occupied," the same way that Haifa, Jaffa, Lod, Ramle, Acre, Nazareth and Tiberias are "occupied" cities.
Palestinians and their fellow Arabs and Muslims hated Israel and the US before Trump's announcement and they will continue to do so after it. For them, Israel has no right to exist, pure and simple. Yet, events do provide cover: Before the announcement, they used Jewish visits to the Temple Mount as an excuse for their rejectionism and terror. This time, they are using the Trump announcement.
Palestinian behavior has made their message as clear as water: the conflict is not about an embassy or a settlement or a fence or a checkpoint, but about the very presence of Jews in this part of the world.
Bassam Tawil is an Arab Muslim based in the Middle East.